LENOVO X230 LAPTOP

lenovo x230The Lenovo X230 laptop is a 12 inch class ultra mobile business class machine. The machine reviewed sells for $1299. System Model 2320HPU is being reviewed.

  • Intel Core i5-3320M dual core with hyperthreading
  • 3.3 GHz CPU turbo boost
  • 35W TDP
  • 3MB L3 cache, 1MB L2 cache
  • HM77 chipset
  • DDR3-1600
  • 16384MB maximum memory
  • HD 4000 graphics with 64MB VRAM DX11 shader 5 compatible
  • 16 shader execution units, 339 GFLOPS
  • 12.5″ LED LCD 1366×768 panel
  • 802.11abgn
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Finger reader
  • SDXC card reader
  • 2x USB 3.0 ports, USB 2.0 permanently powered
  • Expresscard 54 slot
  • 160GB Hitachi hard disk 5400rpm
  • Windows 7 Professional x64
  • 6-cell Li-ion battery
  • 90W Power Supply
  • EPEAT gold
  • 3.3 lbs

The X230 replaces the previous X220 laptop. The biggest improvement is the Ivy Bridge CPU and USB 3.0 support.

The big story on the new X230 is the keyboard which is different from the older X220. The chiclet style keyboard is not bad but it may take some time to acclimate to it.

No question that the X230 will deliver excellent performance with the new Ivy Bridge i5 processor, Make on the 22nm node, the i5-3320M can run all day long on its supplied battery. Lenovo has about 20 different models of the X230 available for any conceivable requirements.

They keyboard is tightly packed and it takes a few days to become comfortable with any new keyboard. The keyboard is rich with function keys to improve the overall functionality. The keyboard itself is well built and and it has a solid impact feel to it which makes it easier for touch typists tow work with.

The Lenovo thinkvantage is very handy for updating the OEM software and drivers. Lenovo supports Windows XP through Windows 8.1 on the X230.

The machine has the IBM button pointing device along with the usual touch pad. Most will fine a mouse to be much more productive.

The lack of an optical drive is typical in small size machines. USB drives are inexpensive and readily available.

Overall the X230 is a great mobile machine for those who need the best in the category.

I5-3320M CPU

The Lenovo X230 comes with the i5-3320m processor (Ivy Bridge)that offers 2 cores with hyperthreading.

The i5-3320m is made with 22nm feature size and has a TDP of 35W. The Advanced Speedstep means that the TDP is seldom reached.

The i5-3320m has 3MB of L3 cache and 1MB of L2 cache. The L1 caches are 64KB per core split between instruction and data.

The i5-3320m can handle up to 16GB of DDR3. The CPU can support DDR3-1066,  DDR3-1333 and DDR3-1600  speeds. The CPU also DDR3L at 1.35V.

  • 1024MB SO-SIMM
  • 2048MB SO-DIMM
  • 4096MB SO-DIMM
  • 8192MB SO-DIMM

When selecting memory for the i5-3320m, select ones with 8 chips on each side of the SO-DIMM. Some SO-DIMM with 4 chips on a side may not work depending on the BIOS and CPU capability. We suggest 8 chip per side memory which is known to work.

The Intel Advanced Vector Extensions (AVX) accelerated floating point compute performance. 64-bit versions of Windows however continue to use SSE2 for floating point acceleration. With Visual Studio has command line switch /arch:avx is needed to enable the support. Visual Studio can emulate the AVX instructions for older processors with a 70% speed penalty.

The Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 runs applications faster  at a higher frequency by using available thermal headroom. The i5-3320m can reach 3.3 GHz maximum.  The graphics can also run at 1200 MHz which also add to the thermal load.  The cooling system in the X230 can handle the thermal load adequately.

The i5-3320 has 16 PCI Express 3.0 lanes available. The HM77 provides an additional 8 PCI Express 1.1 lanes for peripherals.

There are 16384GB DDR3 available but Ivy Bridge on the X230 is not able to use them. The maximum continues to be 16GB of memory. Installing a fast SSD is one way to overcome the performance bottleneck of hard disks.
Intel HD 4000 GPU-Z

HD 4000 GRAPHICS

The Intel HD 3000 graphics are integrated into the i5-2520m using a system on a chip architecture. The i5-2520m has an internal 32-bit ring bus that conveys information from the CPU to the GPU and L2 caches very quickly.  Intel calls this a flexible display interface (FDI) and the support chip has to also support this to be able to provide DisplayPort graphics. It supports 2 independent 4-bit fixed frequency links/channels/pipes at 2.7Gbit/s.

The 3rd gen  Ivy Bridge is much more powerful then the previous generation with Sandy Bridge. The redesigned graphics in the GT2 offer 16 EU with 128 shaders. The GT2 has 128-bit memory and a turbo clock speed of 1300 MHz. The HD 4000 is roughly double the performance of the HD 3650 found in our Lenovo T500.

The HD 4000 is on its own power island on the die and it has its own clock. The GPU can be powered down or clocked up independently of the CPU. For example, at idle, the HD 4000 uses only 0.1W of power. This makes the Ivy Bridge platform very mobile friendly.

Intel is supporting WDDM 1.3 which is more than sufficiently adequate for the  Desktop Windows Manager in Windows Vista and above.

The HD 4000 has logic to support encoding and decoding of H.264. Intel’s Media SDK does not support OpenCL on the HD 4000. It  uses the SSE registers on the CPU.

HM77

The X230 uses the HM77 platform controller hub which provides the IO. It connected to the i5-3320m with the DMI and FDI.

The FDI allows the HM77 to provide additional video ports such as VGA. The Intel HD Audio provides full dynamic range. It can handle DVD audio and SACD audio in addition to CD audio.

The SATA III performance is excellent for SSD users. With 600 MB/s of bandwidth, it’s enough for most products on the market. SSD speeds have increased considerably.The HM77 also provides abundant USB 2.0 ports to handle internal and external port requirements. The X230 has 2 USB 3.0 ports with one USB 2.0 port.

The HM77 has enough SATA for the hard disk and the dock DVD drive The ExpressCard slot is connected to the PCI Express lane 5. The SDXC is handled via the PCI Express lane 2 with USB port 2 handling the WiMax if installed.

The PCI Express Intel 82579LM Ethernet provides gigabit connectivity for business networks. The 82570LM has a 0.66W TDP. It supports IEEE 1588 for precision timing.

HM77

The ExpressCard slot uses a PCI Express lane. The Lenovo X230 can support both 33mm and 54mm size cards.

LCD

The Lenovo X230 offers a 12½ inch IPS pane with 1366×768 pixel resolution. The panel is driven by true color graphics from the HD 4000 GPU. Considering how much this machine sells for, we feel Lenovo should have provided an IPS panel with better color across the line.

The 12.5-inch display definitely feels smaller than that of a 13-inch laptop, but it’s a solid step up from the more common 11-inch screen. At 1,366×768 pixels, this is the same resolution you’d find on nearly all 11- to 13-inch laptops, and a good number of 14- and 15-inch ones as well.

The IPS LCD graphics are not bad for the Windows aero effects and some games work fine with the machine. The machine is marketed mostly for those who need a powerful machine for work in places where power may not be readily available.

INTEL DUAL BAND ADVANCED-N 6205

The Lenovo X230 uses the Intel Advanced-N 6502. The 6205 supports 2.4 GHz and 5 Ghz operation which makes it more practical as 5 Ghz has far more bands for connections,

  • 2T2T
  • 802.11a/b/g/n

The Intel Advanced-N 6502 does not have integrated Bluetooth. Bluetooth is handled by a separate daughter board device which  offers Bluetooth 4.0 EDR connected to USB port 11.

TPM CHIP

The Lenovo X230 uses the STMicroelectronics TMP 1.2 chip. This provides hardware security capability for Bitlocker etc. It also has other abilities but since TPM hardware is not universal, it is not yet being used for licensing operating system or application software etc.

BATTERY & POWER SUPPLY

The Lenovo X230 came with a 90W power supply. Lenovo has stopped shipping 65W power supplies after complaints.

This machine has plenty of battery life, streaming hockey or football works fine with lots of power for the post game. The OEM 6-cell battery is quite adequate. Replacement 9-cell batteries offer 50% more mobile use.

  • 0A36305 4 cell battery
  • 0A36306 6 cell battery
  • 0A36307 9 cell battery

GAMES

See the post on the Lenovo X230 playable games.

WINDOWS 8

Our Lenovo X230 came with Windows 8 Professional pre installed. This CD-key is embedded in the ACPI so it is easier to install Windows fresh from a USB stick or USB DVD drive, The move to using the BIOS makes sense as many stickers with the key were damaged and illegible so they could not be used to activate a clean install of Windows.

The Windows 8.1 updates made the OS much more acceptable as the original release had many design issues that Microsoft corrected.

WINDOWS 10

Microsoft delivered Windows 10 in September 2015 to machines with Windows 7 and Windows 8. We installed Windows 10 clean on the X230 to prevent problems and to ensure good performance.